The Weir has been advertised as giving ‘a deeply human and devastating account of grief and loneliness, as well as its reverse – speaking of love and companionship in a voice that is poetic yet familiar’, and it did not disappoint in these areas; I left the Pilch feeling very moved by the connections formed between the characters and the note of hope on which it ended.
Georgia Crump used the space well to create a brilliantly realistic set, replete with pub darts, photographs, taps, and towels on the tables, setting the scene and atmosphere perfectly for the material, as Valerie, ‘a Dublin woman’, came into this most familiar of settings and acted as a catalyst for the exploration of stories and pasts that people often choose to leave untold. Each actor impressively held an Irish accent, something central to The Weir – firmly inhabiting their characters, the audience was drawn right in to their rural, isolated world, where the ghost stories they told seemed somehow very tangible, sitting in such close proximity to the actors with smoke turning in the light. The darkening of the lights every time a story was about to start may have appeared slightly cliché, but I couldn’t argue with the effectiveness of the contrast.
While the focus was partly on Valerie’s effect on the men’s lives without her necessarily doing that much, it was a shame that the female character was often silent until her monologue. Annie Hayter executed this moving scene wonderfully, as Valerie came out of her quiet shell to deliver the most heartbreaking revelation of the play. However, it would have been nice if the material allowed her to show a more gradual build and larger range of emotion leading up to this point. Stàs Butler, Aaron Skates, Christian Amos and Leo Danczak were all impressive as their respective local characters, delivering hardy back-and-forth interspersed with little magic moments of humour (a couple of one-liners by Danczak were particularly funny, without being incongruously so). However they also skilfully understood the softer nuances in their characters and the real companionship at the root of their relationships – by the end of the play, the portrayal of their interaction led to a feeling of emotional involvement in their lives and the sense of a very real, delicate connection being formed with Valerie – particularly that of Jack, played by Amos.
The Weir is a challenging and unique play to take on, given the necessity for absolute naturalism, believable accents and for students to act significantly older than their age within this framework – but Chris Page has directed an atmospheric and gripping production, and I would definitely recommend a trip to the Pilch before it finishes on Saturday.